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« That Was Quick: Rory Switched Out His Nike Putter | Main | Neighbors Rejoice Over Minor Damage To Trump Scotland »

Tiger: "I thought the ball was embedded"

AP's Michael Casey explains the two-stroke penalty Tiger Woods received for taking embedded ball relief in sand, even though playing partner Martin Kaymer agreed the ball was embedded.

McFee said the rule was clear and that Woods never challenged him on it after the round. It came to light when a spectator alerted the European Tour to the infraction, he said.

"An embedded ball relief is through the green but in ground other than sand," McFee said. "I talked to him when he came off the 11th tee because I couldn't be sure about a two-stroke penalty until we got into the recording area. I don't know the exact spot where he was. I know the area. I would need Tiger to come out and have a look, and he was happy it was in sand."

Here is Tiger committing the violation...good luck seeing it:

And his interview explaining what happened:

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Reader Comments (45)

I can't believe he didn't ask a rules official. Anyone here who has played at the professional level please feel free to explain why one wouldn't avail themselves of a rules official any and every time a question arose in a multimillion dollar tournament.
01.18.2013 | Unregistered CommenterRES
If that is what Tiger says, then he doesn't understand why he was penalized. it was embedded, but he can't take relief due to it being in the sand.
01.18.2013 | Unregistered CommenterBrianS
I read a Steve Elling tweat that indicated that Alistair Tait (Golfweek) first raised the question. If so, that raises an interesting question: should journalists insert themselves, or should they remain merely reporters of events?

With all of that said, I agree with the commentators who stated that he should have called over a rule official. At least he accepted it and moved on.

While we're at it, I noticed a marked difference between Tiger, who battled back to try and make the cut, and Rory, who seemingly mailed in the back nine. Maybe that's unfair, but that's sure the way it looked on TV.
01.18.2013 | Unregistered CommenterSari
He called over Kaymer who agreed with him. Wonder if Kaymer didn't know the rule or didn't want to suggest Tiger's perspective was incorrect. Either way, given the huge appearance fee, it is hard to imagine why Woods didn't ask for a rules official.
01.18.2013 | Unregistered CommenterRobert Thompson
@res rds are already 5 hours long, if players called over a rules official every time they needed a ruling it'd be painful
That said clearly should have in this situation.

As an aside, if we're trying to determine what type of soil something is embedded in, the rule might be a tad complicated
01.18.2013 | Unregistered CommenterElf
I checked the story very carefully from different angles- seems like the referee Andy McFee wasn't sleeping well the previous night.
Tiger did the right thing
01.18.2013 | Unregistered CommenterFila
The focus on "in sand" is weird. Embedded ball relief is available from any closely mown area through the green. Closely mown is defined as cut to fairway height or less. The jungle surrounding the sand in which Tiger's ball was embedded is very relevant. Clearly he wasn't anywhere near a closely mown area. I shouldn't think the sand itself played a part in the actual ruling. A ball embedded in a sandy, grassless area in the middle of the fairway is absolutely eligible for relief (assuming it's not defined as a hazard).

This, for me, makes his not knowing how to proceed even more of a head-scratcher. Pretty straight forward stuff.
01.18.2013 | Unregistered CommenterSeán O'Nuallain
It's perfectly obvious why he didn't call an official -- he considered the situation routine and thought he knew the rule. As did his playing partner Martin Kaymer.

Clearly they were both wrong.

" I would need Tiger to come out and have a look, and he was happy it was in sand."

Does that sentence make sense?
01.18.2013 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
"Was happy" is common English (British -- you'de hear it north of the Wall too) shorthand. Means here he was happy to accept, or agreed.

So Rory can loll in a hotel room and watch Wozzers lose instead of getgting tweeteries. Someone: track that Gulfstream and see if it stops down in Austria for "re-fuelling!"
01.18.2013 | Unregistered CommenterGhillie
Tx for the clarification Ghillie. I assumed it meant Tiger took no issue with the the ball being declared in sand.

So, how much longer will tournament organizers keep pairing Tiger and Rory together?
01.18.2013 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
Seán, on both the PGA Tour and European Tour you get relief through the green (due to a locak rule) unlike us hackers who can only get relief from closely mown areas
01.18.2013 | Unregistered CommenterRyan
Ryan, is that local rule ALWAYS on the card on PGA and European tour events? I have always believed it a special case thing based on course conditions.

If you're right then the following specimen local rule is likely applicable and Tiger/Martin perhaps not such idiots after all. Long live bifurcation!


Through the green, a ball that is embedded in its own pitch-mark in the ground may be lifted, without penalty, cleaned and dropped as near as possible to where it lay but not nearer the hole. The ball when dropped must first strike a part of the course through the green.


1. A player may not take relief under this Local Rule if the ball is embedded in sand in an area that is not closely mown.

2. A player may not take relief under this Local Rule if interference by anything other than the condition covered by this Local Rule makes the stroke clearly impracticable.
01.18.2013 | Unregistered CommenterSeán O'Nuallain
That would never have happened in Charlotte.
01.18.2013 | Unregistered CommenterHawkeye
@Sean, rule always in place. That was why fact it was a sandy area mattered
01.18.2013 | Unregistered CommenterElf
Another stupid rule in golf...The ball was embedded and NOT In a hazard.
01.18.2013 | Unregistered CommenterViz
Basically there's the rule - closely mown areas only, there's the local rule that's in place at all pro events - which extends the rule to everywhere except hazards, not just closely mown areas, then there's the appendix to the local rule which states that the embeded ball rule doesn't apply if it's in sand.

(and if you look at the area I'd never have ID'd that offhand as sand)
01.18.2013 | Unregistered Commenterelf
my theory is that neither rory or tiger really wanted to be there. they collected their appearance money, took a bunch of awkward photos sipping tea, and weren't playing that great and ready to get home. if tiger was playing well he would've called for an official. because he wasn't, not sure he really thought about getting a ruling.

this isn't a rip on rory or tiger. i don't blame them one bit. get your appearance money, and get home home and get ready for the pga tour.
01.18.2013 | Unregistered CommenterCharlie
Charlie, take two more bong hits, you've certainly earned them!
01.18.2013 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
The strange thing is that I always interpreted that as sand as meaning "hazard" or "bunker". Frankly, all modern courses are built on a layer of sand, so everything is sand-based. Clearly that jungle inside that bunker isn't the bunker itself. Could you sole your club there? Very, very strange.

As for why no rules official, my sense is they don't have as many on the European Tour.
01.18.2013 | Unregistered CommenterThe O
Easy ruling, and correct for that matter. On many tour events there is an 'expanded' local/tournament rule allowing a free drop from an embedded lie through the green, as opposed to the normal 'closely mown area' only. That particular rule also explicitly states that no free drop is given for a ball embedded in (a) sand(y area). If you were on site, the difference in soil between the artificial course (fw, rough) and the natural surrounding (ergo outside the rough) is very, very clear. For me the issue that remains is this: how can two world class touring pro's (&former world #1's) NOT NOT THE RULES OF THEIR PROFESSION?????
01.18.2013 | Unregistered CommenterKS
Nearly all Tours have the Local Rule for embedded ball through the green, however, at the British Open the Local Rule is not in effect so relief for an embedded ball is only available in closely mown areas.

The R&A and USGA don't see eye to eye on this Rule 100%, that is why it can be Local Rule rather than just in the Rules.
01.18.2013 | Unregistered CommenterFLGolfer
I think the rule should be more clear when the whole golf course is technically sitting on sand, as Abu Dhabi is a very geologically sandy place. I think the spirit of the rule is so a player doesn't take relief out of a hazard. These rules were written when golf was only big in the USA and Europe, now that golf is becoming a more world wide sport/event I think the rules really need to be hashed out or a rules official should be following every group.
01.18.2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoe
Had Tiger known the rule possibly he could have dug a trench behind it thereby allowing for clean contact with the back of the ball a la S. Cink, right?

Tell you what, if I were a caddie out on tour on my own time I'd attend the most comprehensive rules seminar I could find and then I'd go for an update annually. The upside from saving your player from making mistakes like this would be just monstrous! My goal would be to know the rules as well as the officials...
01.18.2013 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
vis-a-vis the player's concern for the length of the round being the reason for not calling over a rules official -- pshaw. clearly none of these guys is in any way concerned with the length of their rounds or pace of play.
01.18.2013 | Unregistered CommenterRES
Joe, there are sand dunes on Scotland too - this isn't an issue of the rules being unsuited for the terrain.

DTF, Cink was, per the specious rules in effect at Harbour Town, in an area through the green and his ball lay on numerous loose impediments (crushed shells) that he was permitted to remove under Rule 23-1. Sand, e.g., that lying around Tiger's ball, is not a loose impediment unless it is on the putting green - thus creation of such a trench wwould be a breach of Rule 13-2.
01.18.2013 | Unregistered CommenterJim Maroney
Having watched Moaning Drivel, while, I assume most of you may have been watchng the golf replay- here are some interesting fills in the blanks--

The ''closely mowed'' is replaced by a ''thru the green'' which automatically eliminates the need to clarify ''sand in bunkers''.

***the following was clearly stated on MD***

the ''exception noted'' regarding sand was created because often a ball may be plugged in a sand dune on a links course, and NO RELIEF IS ALLOWED-play it as it lies.

***again, this was clearly stated on MD***

Now - my opinion is TW was frustrated and did not call for an official again, because he WAS FRUSTRATED- and as one is want to do in such situations- he rushed- and was not thinking clearly.

They know the rule- TW did not even want to go back out and look at the area, because, simply enough, he knew he was wrong and broke the rule- when you see a replay of the shot it is obvious that thus land is sand.

When you see an areal view of the edge of the course, IT IS SITTING IN THE DESERT- A DESERT MADE OF SAND- however, the course itself has topsoil, and is not considered sand, for the purpose of this discussion.

Sari wrote---

''I read a Steve Elling tweat that indicated that Alistair Tait (Golfweek) first raised the question. If so, that raises an interesting question: should journalists insert themselves, or should they remain merely reporters of events?''

Alistair Tate- asked why he got a drop- ***simply for the purposes of reporting*** This according to TGC reported Rex Hoggard, who was walking with Tait. There was no challenge to the free drop made by Tait, assuming Rex is telling the truth.

And finally.''When we had no crawfish, we ate sand.'' You ate sand?'' ''We ate sand.''
01.18.2013 | Unregistered Commenterdigsouth
On a sand based course if your ball was embedded clearly in the centre of a divot, with sand in it, on the fairway (quite easy on an upslope in damp conditions) it would be embedded in sand and there would be no relief.
Great rule eh?
What Woods perhaps should have said to Khymer is "I'm not certain if I get a free drop, I'm proceeding as if for an unplayable lie or a free drop. If it's not a free drop, we'll check at the end of the round." The actual process, drop within one clublength was the same I think. Sean any comment or Barry do you read this?
@Colin - for your question, I believe the rule as cited by Sean, above, covers the divot situation:

1. A player may not take relief under this Local Rule if the ball is embedded in sand in an area that is not closely mown.

So a divot in the fairway would be an area that is closely mown, and relief would be allowed.
01.18.2013 | Unregistered CommenterBrianS
Good color there Jim. I was kinda kidding because I'm a white belt novice on the rules....maybe 2013 is the year I should set out to learn them.

A. Tait is running the other way from this one huh?!? He should relax, taking the I Am The Story Championship Belt away from Alex "I Am The Story" Miceli will be very very difficult!!
01.18.2013 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
Bong hits all around boys, we've all earned them.
01.18.2013 | Unregistered CommenterPress Agent
Big oops for Tiger, and once again the RoG run riot with the business of golf. I have a question for you, though: Was DJ in a sand bunker at Whistling Straits?
01.18.2013 | Unregistered CommenterKLG
Another tournament that confirms that post-hydrant Tiger is a long way from pre-hydrant Tiger and that the chasm might be too far to bridge at this age.

How many tournaments were there from 1996-2009 that looked like this? One maybe. Two at the most.

His worst pre-hydrant - perhaps the Canadian Open at Royal Montreal which was the tournament before his cut-streak. Then there was a pretty skanky display at the Byron Nelson one year - 2007, 2008?

Post hydrant, there have been at least a dozen stinkers in one quarter of the time.

At this stage, it would be safe to conclude that we cannot extrapolate any of his pre-2009 win rate going forward with respect to reaching 18 or 19 majors.
01.18.2013 | Unregistered CommenterPortheadrush
Deep breaths, all around
01.18.2013 | Unregistered CommenterEnigma
I would strongly recommend to those who are having some difficulty understanding this situation go to the USGA website where John Van der Borght gives a clear explaination of R25-2 and the often used Local Rule found in the Appendix.

Pretty straightforward info, not rocket science.

It's disappointing that world class players don't know this. I conduct Rules and etiquette clinics for Juniors in my area and I know some 10 year olds that are aware of this. Not being sarcastic, just a fact.
01.19.2013 | Unregistered Commenterpete blaisdell
Alistair Tait is the one who needs some bong hits. The law of unintended consequences...
01.19.2013 | Unregistered Commentertlavin
Pete, I'd be interested in attending a rules seminar of some sort....what's the best way to go about finding one? I reside in the MET Section.
01.19.2013 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
Go to USGA SITE' click on Rules then click on Workshops and you will get the schedule and locations.
01.19.2013 | Unregistered Commenterpete blaisdell
He does know the rules. He simply didnt realize it was a sandy area. It was a mistake. Why do do you think he didnt contest it? Because he knows the rules and he broke it.
01.19.2013 | Unregistered Commenterwiger toods
All professional Tours produce a 'hard card' which shows the local rules that apply to EVERY event played on that Tour.All players are given one and should know whats on there.Its just like a club member reading the locals on the back of their scorecard.
There are actually as many local rules denying relief to pros on the European tour as there are ones such as this one which you could see as a bonus to the players-for example they do not give relief for stance for a burrowing animal or newly laid turf.
Tiger is VERY good at the Rules-this is a rare slip for him!
01.19.2013 | Unregistered Commenterchico

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